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Banff Town councillor may be reprimanded after breach of privacy

BANFF – Banff town Councillor Peter Poole is under fire for breaching privacy legislation.
Banff Election Photos
Banff Town Councillor Peter Poole.

BANFF – Banff town Councillor Peter Poole is under fire for breaching privacy legislation.

Council will address and get advice on how to deal with a councillor’s breach of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) act during an in-camera session at a governance and finance committee meeting Monday (May 13).

Coun. Poole said he recently shared news about Town of Banff issues to an email list he had assembled that included an address of someone who had applied for a position with a Town committee.

“At the time, I presumed this committee applicant would want to know about Town matters, but in using that person's email, I breached that person’s right to privacy,” said Poole.

“I have since apologized directly to that person. I've taken an online course about protecting citizens’ contact info.”

In addition, Poole is also under scrutiny for an incident in which a Town employee felt pressured by him. The details of the incident are not known and considered confidential, but will also be discussed at the in-camera meeting Monday.

Coun. Poole said that in his role as a community volunteer he offered his “unsolicited opinion” to a Town employee.

“I apologize to any employee of the Town of Banff whom I may have made feel uncomfortable if they thought that I was attempting to direct them in how they do their work,” he said.

“From the perspective of a Town of Banff employee, speaking about a municipal matter with a citizen might be just a conversation, but with a Town councillor, it might feel like direction, or even pressure.”

Coun. Poole has called for a council code of conduct bylaw to be drawn up sooner rather than later, so that public servants can have confidence that they are following the rules.

“This lack of a code of conduct bylaw is not an excuse of my behaviour,” he said.

“The forthcoming code of conduct bylaw may go some way to clarify those ‘electric fences’ we, as councillors, are not supposed to cross.”

A code of conduct for councillors is required under the Municipal Government Act and is being worked on in Banff. The MGA does not specify how to enact a code of conduct for a municipal council, it just says one is needed.

“In the 15 years that I have served on council, the need to refer to a council code of conduct has never been required. I do agree at this point in time a code of conduct is required,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen.

“In addition to the MGA now requiring councils to create code of conduct for council, it’s clear our council needs to move forward with a code of conduct quickly.”

The conduct issues involving Poole are being dealt with in-camera under FOIP legislation, but any follow up motions will be made in public.

The section cited is that the disclosure could reasonably be expected to reveal consultations or deliberations involving officers or employees of the public body, a member of the executive council or the staff of the executive council.

Sorensen said the governance and finance committee will be presented with information and options on how to proceed at an in-camera session Monday morning.

“Based on discussion that morning, there would be a motion that would come publicly at the council meeting (later in the day),” she said.

A spokesperson for Alberta Municipal Affairs was not immediately available.